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Newbie Here-having a hard time committing to multi level ACDF

lindaloullindalou Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in New Member Introductions
Hi, I am new to posting but have been reading about your experiences for a while. I am having such a hard time to committing to ACDF on C5/C6 and C6/C7. Went for second opinion and both suggest surgery. Very scary. I have been researching the hardware and am have limited info on Synthes Zero-P with PEEK. Seems to make sense, but concerned about the domino effect on the discs above. Currently having debilitating left sided neck, back and shoulder pain. Anytime I do anything even remotely physical, (like doing/folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, etc) I end up with horrible pain and burning sensation. I love to kayak and ride my horse but have been told not to do either. Is anyone familiar with this type if hardware? Surgeon says I can drive after having sutures out after one week. Return to light duty desk job after two weeks. Can this be possible? Returning to neuro on August 10th 2011 with more questions and potentially setting up Sx date for August 25th. Please help a very scared newbie!
Thank you so very much!

C7 compression fracture 39 yrs ago (49 years young now)
Multiple level DDD
Left sided osteophyte/hard disc at the C6-7 level
Central and to the right soft disc osteophyte at the C6-7 level
Foraminal narrowing
Meds: flexeril, Lortab 5/500, Effexor-XR
Radiographs, MRI, Nerve Conduction test,
P/T, Traction, Tens Unit at home, Cervical Epidurals> all either intensifying pain or limited time relief.
Neurosurgeons-two consultations recommending ACDF


  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    We all understand how scary it is to make the commitment to have spine surgery - most of us have been there. This decision is a very personal one and certainly, none of us can make it for you, but we can help you with our experiences and what we know.

    I had a 3-lvl ACDF after only trying PT ordered by my PCP, then when she had me take my cervical MRI to an ortho spine surgeon, he said it wasn't a matter of if I had surgery, but when. When I looked at my x-rays back then, it was all gobbeldy gook, but looking at them now, the pre-op vs. post-op, boy I can certainly see why he said I needed surgery.

    There's only a few things I can tell you with regards to your decision. First, you did well to get two opinions, and since they match, that's good. It's probably true that you need surgery. Second, the anticipation is so much worse than the surgery itself. I think everyone who's had an ACDF will tell you the same thing. And third, make sure you have complete confidence in your surgeon. Make sure he's qualified (hopefully fellowship-trained), has done many of these, and even talk to some of his patients if it makes you feel better.

    One more thing: Almost all of us have woken up after our ACDF with all symptoms gone, except muscle spasms. But the arm symptoms are completely gone. It really is an amazing feeling.

    As for the recovery, he may be sugar-coating it a bit, but I know some people that really did go back to work two weeks after surgery and are just fine. In fact I just talked with someone who had a 2-lvl done posteriorly, didn't follow his doc's orders to wear a collar and went back to work, as a printer, one week after his surgery. And posterior is worse than anterior!

    So, try not to worry. One thing you may find is that this place, Spine-Health, can be your best friend before and after your surgery. So many members know what you're facing, what you're going through and how you feel. We'll cheer you on right up until you go offline to have it done and when you get back afterwards, we'll be there to congratulate you.

    Take care, Lindalou, and feel free to PM me if I can help you in any way. Please keep us posted.
  • HI,
    Glad you got second opinions..that's important. And welcome to spine health, where as already been stated, you can get info and support!
    I had C5-C7 ACDF last spring, but mine did not form a good fusion around 2 screws, so we just re-did it in May of this year, but did anterior and posterior to lock that thing in this time.
    The anterior is actually a fairly easy surgery, or at least it was for me...a little problem swallowing for a little while, but not much pain and if you follow orders, a relatively quick recovery. The posterior is another story...
    If you like and trust your dr., go ahead with it, and you'll be fine!
  • Hi and welcome.

    As others have said, surgery is a very personal decision, but having 2 doctors agree that you need it sways things.

    I had a C5-C7 ACDF 12 years ago at the age of 46. My recovery went well but slowly. Back to work in 2 weeks? That's very hard to imagine. I wasn't back to PT until 4 weeks after surgery, and that was crucial to my recovery. But I know the procedure and hardware have changed which may change recovery time.

    I understand your concern about the domino effect on disks above. I now have arthritic spurs at the cervical levels above and below the fusion. However, it has been 12 years of total relief with only limited range of motion as a residual effect. I am doing very well with conservative treatment for pain that was kicked up by a car accident several months ago. If I needed surgery again I would do it.

    Let us know what you decide.
  • Thank you for replying so quickly. I feel so alone about this and really appreciate your words of experience and wisdom. My pain is feels like it is all muscle. It has been really bad for two years now and seems to be getting worse quickly. My neck is like a rock on the left side. Did you have the pain, burning, throbing sensation? Is that what goes away?
    Thank you, :)

  • Hello and Welcome Lindalou,

    I like you am still sitting on the fence but think it is only a matter of time. I have another pre-op appt on the 10th. I have had mild-moderate neck pain since a fracture in 1990 but have had episodes of right arm radiculopathy that has driven me crazy only at the last hour to disappear after a few months. Not happening yet after symptoms since April 11th of this year. Am I being unrealistic in thinking it could go away again? I will be watching your updates and wishing you a good solution. I am looking forward to having more questions answered on the 10th. I know nothing about the hardware except that it makes me a little fearful of rejection w my other issues.
  • Hi Linda,

    I think my pain was a lot like yours. I did not have very much arm pain. Mostly pain in the neck shoulder blade and upper arm, worst in the shoulder blade area. I had a herniated c4-c5.

    I was so nervous about getting surgery.

    I am about 5 weeks out from surgery. I think that if you absolutely have to you can go back to a light duty desk job at 2 weeks but I wouldn't recommend it.

    I started driving at 2 weeks but only for very limited time.

    My pain did not completely disappear after surgery, but slowly is over time. My shoulders are no where near as tight. I get sore at night, and get a lot of burning in my mid back when I exercise.

    Overall I am glad I got the surgery, and the recovery really isn't that bad. I had a harder time with my tonsilectomy.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Yes, I imagine most of us had the same sensations that you describe. For me, many of them went away post-op for the most part, but I still experienced some pain at the base of the back of my neck and muscle spasms and tightening in my upper back. That went on for at least a few months and my surgeon said it was to be expected.

    But the release of many of the other symptoms was very worth the surgery. Like many have said here, it's well worth having done. Initially the recovery is difficult, but not aweful, and I felt steady improvement. Eventually, all those symptoms went away too. The problem is, if you wait too long, you may have permanent nerve damage and you really don't want to risk that. Temporary damage is bad enough, eh?

    I have problems above my fusion, but I had those problems beforehand, and are just exacerbated by the surgery. With the job I'm doing now, I regularly exercise the muscles that support my neck and I think that's helped quite a bit.

    I'm not surprised that your pain feels muscular, they have to compensate for what's happening and what's not working in your cervical spine.

    I truly suspect that you'll find yourself feeling better after this surgery, given time and with a good surgeon. It's not a quick road to feeling good, but it's a road that on its way to making you better.

  • Thank you so much to all who supported, encouraged and shared their experiences.
    I am on my ninth day post op and all went well. I think the anguish over deciding what to do was worse that actually doing it. One week pre op, I called to reschedule my appt, yes I chickened out!
    The office said that the next time that they could get me on the schedule was in late october. I was so painful that night and the next day that I called to see if my original date was still open. It was and I only had a week to prepare my household and make sure things were in order at work. I had too many other things to do and didn't have the time to keep second quessing my decission.Preops on the 23rd.
    Surgery was Thurs the 25 of Aug at 8am. Surgery went well, but my neurosurgeon said it took an extra hour due to there being much more calcification and large spurs than anticipated. So a little over four hours later I was in recovery (which I have no recollection of what so ever)for at least an hour and then up to my room on the surgical floor. Honestly that day was a big fog, morphine in injections into my cath every two hours if I asked them. Clear liquids were offered and boy let me tell you, sherber never tasted so good. My throat was sore, and it did feel kile there was a lump in my throat and I was a bit hoarse. I drank as much as possible, as I'm sure the meds gave me horrible cotton mouth. Up to use the bedside commode about as often as getting the morphine. To be continued....neckache!
  • robinflrrobinfl Merritt Island FLPosts: 30
    So how are you now lindalou ?
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    This is an old discussion created by lindalou a member not on the forum since posting so I am closing it.

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
This discussion has been closed.
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